LA QUINTA, Calif. -- It is golf's magic number -- 59. It's the ultimate low, the most of the least, the sum total of greatness when the only thing suitable for writing it down on your scorecard is a gold pen.
For David Duval, it was his final-round score yesterday, the one that won the Bob Hope Classic, an almost numbingly routine-looking 59 that moved him past the 12 players who began the day in front of him, allowed him to collect a $540,000 winner's check and let him walk straight into golf history.
The only other PGA players to shoot 59 have been Al Geiberger at the Memphis Classic in 1977 and Chip Beck at the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational.
Duval, a taciturn 27-year-old, left everybody else in the shadows once again. Normally as emotional as granola, he double-pumped his fist the moment his 6-foot eagle putt disappeared into the hole at No. 18, the 59th and last of his shots, worth a two-shot lead over Steve Pate.
Four groups ahead of the lead group that included Pate, Duval waited to see if he would be caught. His lead over Pate was only one shot when Duval stood off to the side of the grandstand at No. 18 and chewed on an apple. Then he heard the groans when Pate's last chance, an 18-foot birdie putt, spun out of the hole to end it.
Of course, that's when Duval let it all hang out. He smiled.
For Duval, that's an eruption of emotion, but then again, shooting a 59 on the last day to win a tournament isn't your typical day.
"It's like pitching a perfect game," Duval said.
And so it was. Pate deserved better since he didn't exactly roll over in a bunker and cover himself with sand. He closed with a 66 to finish at 25-under-par and only lost because somebody dropped a 59 on him. This is golf's equivalent to being struck by lightning.
"I played better than everybody but one guy," Pate said. "I guess you could say I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Meanwhile, Duval kept up his uncanny knack of finding himself in the right place at the right time.
Add it up and it's sort of monotonous.
Two victories in his only two starts this year.
More than $1 million in those two weeks ($1,008,000).
Nine victories in his last 28 tournaments.
Nearly $4.9 million in prize money in the last 15 months.
Duval, who began the day tied for 13th, was seven shots behind former University of Maryland coach Fred Funk. Duval was 13-under for the first 72 holes and 13-under the last 18 holes. He birdied No. 1 at the Palmer Course yesterday, the same hole he double-bogeyed on Saturday. He shot a 28 on the back nine -- which Duval also did last year at Tucson.
Pate's second-place finish was worth $324,000, and John Huston won $204,000 after his closing 66 brought him in at 24-under 336. Funk and Bob Estes tied for fourth and Skip Kendall was sixth.
Duval produced rounds of 70-71-64-70-59 for a 26-under total of 334.
"What more can you say?" Pate asked. "If he doesn't jump to No. 1 in the world rankings, there's something seriously wrong."
Duval birdied the first three holes, tapped in for par at No. 4, then birdied the par-3 fifth. He parred the next three holes, but birdied No. 9.
Duval began the back with three more birdie putts, the first two from 4 feet and the third, at the par-3 12th, from 2. He tapped in for par at No. 13, then birdied three in a row.
He hit a sand wedge to 10 feet on the par-5 14th, hit an 8-iron to 1 1/2 feet of the hole at the par-3 15th and made a putt from 6 feet at No. 16.
He two-putted from 20 feet at the par-5 17th and then started thinking about a possible eagle at the 543-yard par-5 18th -- with a 59 staring him in the face.
After his drive, Duval had 177 yards to the front of the green and 218 yards to the hole. So full of emotion, he chose a 5-iron and let it go.
"My main thought was to knock it on and have a decent putt," he said. "I wasn't positive I could get it all the way back to the hole. But it looked good all the way. I was just screaming for it to get there, and it did."
Pub Date: 1/25/99